Reflecting on Reflecting – Rabbi Barry Gelman

March 24, 2014

The only way we can discuss prayer is on the basis of self-reflection, trying to describe what has happened to us in a rare and precious moment of prayer. (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; The Insecurity of Freedom: Prayer as Discipline pg. 255)

 

This is the great paradox of prayer. As Rabbi Heschel says a few lines later: “You  cannot, of course, analyze the act of prayer while praying.” Doing so would be to violate the sacred nature of prayer as total immersion (See pg. 255 in the Essay Prayer as Discipline for more on this). On the other hand, we cannot afford not to spend time self-reflecting on our prayer experiences. Like anything else in life, events that we let go by without contemplation, leave little impact on us.

So, we have no choice but to find time after we have prayed to try our best to recollect how we were feeling when we prayed. Maybe this is the companion to Adonai Sifatai Tiftach….” said before we pray. That statement is actually a request for help that we pray with Kavannah.

After we have prayed, we should look back to see if it worked. Was there a particular time during Tefilla that I felt moved? Was there a particular time I felt distracted? How can I duplicate the times i found moved and minimize the distractions?

We should also do this institutionally. if there was a particular teffila that had the community engaged, consider the elements and see if they can be duplicated on a regular basis. And, if there are elements of tefilla that do not engage the people, it may be time to envision a different approach.

Meaningful prayer is so difficult. We can attain success in prayer more often if we take time to reflect on how we pray, what works and what does not.

 

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Ugly Room – Beautiful Time – Rabbi Barry Gelman

May 9, 2012

I had a very similar experience to the one described in this article. 

Almost a year ago my father suffered a massive heart attack and eventually underwent a triple bypass. Thank God he is doing well.

During his hospitalization and recovery from surgery, I, along with other family members, spent many days Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. 

Form the outset I was amazed at the work of the Satmar Bikkur Cholim who daily brought kosher food to a well stocked “Kosher Room” in the hospital. This included food for shabbat that was kept warm in a warming box in that special room. The room was not aesthetically pleasing, but it was beautiful in another way, in that it was a meeting place for Jews of all stripes, with one thing in common, a sick loved one. It offered comfort and the knowledge that we were not alone in our worry and concern. It was illness and that magical room that brought me, a Modern Orthodox Rabbi to share Seudah Shlishit with a Satmar Chassid and a Yeshivish women.

When there is common cause or concern, the differences based on details like what kind of kippah one wears or weather or not one is a zionist disappear. 

For me it served as a window into what could be if more Jews could be convinced to come together based on common cause rather than separate based on difference. 

I know it was just a moment in time, but it is moments like those that create big dreams.